Category: Get Involved

CUPE Local 3907’s Annual General Meeting on October 27th at 12pm

By admin, October 13, 2011 3:49 pm

Annual General Meeting

Thursday, October 27, 2011

12 -2 p.m.

OISE Room 5-280

The local will be discussing the state of bargaining with the Employer and some things that we intend to do to advance our bargaining goals. The election of the members of the executive committee and the trustees will take place at this meeting.

It will also be presenting the annual report of the local as well as the budget. This meeting will provide us with the opportunity to discuss the direction of the local and the priorities that you would like to establish. Our local is as strong as the degree to which you and other members participate in its activities.

Agenda items include:

  • Election of executive committee and trustees

  • Update on the state of bargaining

  • Member involvement in the local and social justice campaigns

  • Annual budget

Food and Refreshments will be provided!

The shock Doctrine, Toronto

By admin, August 25, 2011 2:27 pm

August 15, 2011 issue #26, Local

By Simon Black

For those of you who haven’t read the book, here’s a one-paragraph breakdown: Beginning in the 1970s, Klein observes, neo-liberals and neo-conservatives (those who believe that free markets and less government is  the answer to everything) have exploited crises to advance their agenda of deep cuts to social spending, government deregulation and privatization.  Cuts have been made to health care, welfare, public pensions, unemployment insurance, tuition subsidies and about every program or benefit you can think of that makes capitalism a little bit nicer a system to live under. Privatization of things like health care, roads, public housing, and libraries has meant windfall profits for big corporations as what were once public goods get bought and sold on the market like any other commodity. As Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman notes , this “agenda that has nothing to do with resolving crises, and everything to do with imposing their (the right’s) vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.”

Crises are essential to the shock doctrine because they create a climate in which the public supports, or just passively accepts, an agenda which is counter to their interests. As Klein puts it:  the shock doctrine is about “using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters — to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.” Starting with Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973 (the CIA assisted overthrow of the socialist government of Salvador Allende) and covering  the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Klein documents how economic and social crises have become moments of opportunity for right-wingers to attack the welfare state, social programs, trade unions, and the social movements that have pushed for greater economic democracy.

Take the case of post-Katrina New Orleans. In the wake of the disaster, think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (Canada’s equivalent to the Fraser Institute) and Republican politicians descended on the city pushing the f*ckery of privatization of public housing and public education, dismantling what little of a welfare state New Orleanians had. This served their ‘free market’ ideology, most clearly articulated by American conservative Grover Norquist, who once said “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag in into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” But it also served the corporate interests close to the Bush administration who made millions from taking over what were once public assets. New Orleanians, displaced and distraught, or in a state of ‘shock’ as Klein puts it, had little say in the matter.

Canadian neocons have long-casted an envious eye at their US cousins. Harper, Mike Harris, and Rob Ford have sweated US Republicans like tweenage girls sweat Drake at Summer Jam. Now Toronto’s Mayor has surrounded himself with strategists and backroom players whose membership in the Conservative Party, the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, and think-tanks like the Fraser Institute neatly overlap. The Common Sense Revolutionaries (if you’re too young to remember, they ran Ontario from 1995 to 2003 and brought us the Walkerton water crisis, the assassination of First Nations activist Dudley George and the death by heat exhaustion of Kimberley Rogers, a young single mom who was trapped in her sweltering apartment under house arrest for ‘defrauding’ welfare), many of whom cut their political teeth in the downloading and amalgamation years of the Mike Harris Tories have reappeared in urban guise, finally having won control over a much sought after prize: the left-leaning City of Toronto with its myriad social programs and ‘big government’.

Yet in adherence to the shock doctrine, Ford’s team needed a crisis to push through their agenda. With only 25% of eligible Torontonians voting for Ford, a full-scale assault on the City’s social services would not be popular. Ford’s rise to office happened within the context of the world economic crisis that left many Torontonians more economically insecure and wary of tax increases and ‘misspent’ tax dollars. From Europe to North America, governments are calling for ‘austerity’ in the name of debt reduction and fiscal balance. Ford won the election by articulating a simple narrative of what was wrong with the city: too much wasteful spending; city hall’s so-called ‘gravy train’. Ford named lavish retirement parties and councillor’s penchant for taxis, but cleverly avoided labelling the City’s social services ‘gravy’.

Why? Because most Torontonians do not see nutritional programs for low-income children or green energy initiatives as wasteful spending; many agree that such programs are the marks of a world-class city. And yet the public is rightly pissed off when councillors casually spend tax-payers dollars on crazy expenses or when a public agency is careless with its budget. But actual instances of this are few and far between; Ford’s strategy has hinged on reframing most if not all government spending as inherently wasteful. To his chagrin, potential allies on council like Mary-Margaret McMahon have discovered, “The gravy’s not flowing through city hall like originally expected.”

The second crisis opening the door for Ford’s agenda is the crisis of confidence in public institutions. The garbage strike, the media hammering of errant TTC employees and the events at Toronto Community Housing have all played into the Mayor’s hands.

In this context, the Mayor looks for scapegoats and it really doesn’t matter who fits the role; it could be graffiti artists, left-wing pinkos, the homeless, black youth, environmentalists, just fill in the blank. But with the economic crisis, TTC and garbage strike affairs, the city’s unions have become public enemy number one.

Union-busting is at the center of the shock doctrine as public-sector unions are the first line of defence against cuts, deregulation, and privatization.  As Klein points out, in post-Katrina New Orleans the introduction of charter schools (effectively privatizing public education) broke the back of the teachers union. Facing a fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, the Republican governor has rolled back the collective bargaining rights of almost all public sector employees.

This is what lies behind Ford’s successful effort – with a complicit provincial government – to have the TTC deemed an ‘essential service’ and plans to privatize garbage collection, effectively firing the city’s unionized employees.  The Toronto Community Housing ‘scandal’ has provided the Mayor with the necessary excuse to review the City’s roll in public housing, again with an eye to privatization. Look for Ford to shed the City’s unionized public child care centers in the next round of budget cuts, contracting care to non-union for-profit providers. Libraries and their unionized employees are also being considered for privatization.

For the Ford agenda has very little to do with resolving a ‘crisis’ real or perceived and everything to do with remaking Toronto in a right-wing image: A leaner, meaner city, where the market is to be free and the public sector and its unions are to be disciplined. If we don’t fight back, Toronto Inc., the city of corporate rule, will become a reality.

CUPE National, regulations concerning elections for national office

By admin, August 25, 2011 2:24 pm

Home / Convention / CUPE National Convention

Regulations concerning elections for national office


Dear Sisters and Brothers:

In accordance with clause 5 of the Chief Electoral Officer section of the Regulations, I serve as the principle administrative support to our Chief Electoral Officer Sister Nancy Riche.

Please find an electronic version of the above mentioned document, adopted by the NEB in 2003 then presented to and received by delegates at the 2003 National Convention.

I want to draw your attention to page two of the Regulations, particularly opportunities for candidates for National Office to have a brochure or letter mailed out to all chartered organizations.

You will note that the production of the brochure or letter is the responsibility of the candidates along with photocopying, translation and mailing costs. We don’t have a lot of experience with acting on these provisions as no candidates have availed themselves of this opportunity since the inception of the Regulations in 2003.

We expect this may change this year and therefore wanted to offer everyone the same information as a guide.

In terms of quantity, a total of 4,000 copies of a brochure or letter are required in order to send to all chartered organizations.

We would suggest that a single mailing be sent which would include pieces from all interested candidates along with a cover note from Sister Nancy Riche, our Chief Electoral Officer. This will serve to bring down the cost of the mailing to each candidate as the cost of the single mailing will be shared by the candidates who chose to participate in the mailing.

For further clarity, we propose that all pieces, in sufficient quantities, be at the National Office by September 27, 2011. The National Office will then mail the pieces in a single mailing on October 4, 2011.

All candidates who are opting to do such a mailing should advise me in advance, so that we can ensure all candidates are included in the mailing.

In solidarity,

Robert Hickes
Managing Director
Organizing and Regional Services Department

Download the full regulations as a PDF
(53 kB)

Labour Chasing Fool’s Gold: Austerity and class struggle

By admin, December 6, 2010 2:12 pm

by Ajamu Nangwaya – BASICS Issue #23 (Nov / Dec 2010)

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”

– Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The above quotation could have been referring to the affection for Keynesian economics by the bureaucrats in Ontario’s trade unions (organized labour).

Keynesianism is a fiscal policy approach that believes the state’s management of the overall injection of spending into the economy by government, businesses and consumers is critical to achieving full employment and economic prosperity.

The government is seen as the key player in encouraging the required level of “aggregate demand.” It does so through its own spending and power over taxation, interest rate and the money supply.

Marx also said that “the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

This quote captures the burden of organized labour’s post-war engagement with Keynesian economics and the way that it tries to resurrect it like old Lazarus, in the face of the current crisis in capitalism.

The brain trust at CUPE Ontario has been trumpeting an alternative economic response to the wage freeze proposal of the McGuinty Liberals.

I, for one, was looking for a transformative document that would be guided by a working-class informed position on political economy and the class struggle.

But what we got was the demand management trope that is the core of John Maynard Keynes’s approach to stabilizing the inherent boom and bust features of capitalism’s business cycle. Keynes’ book, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was written as a manual for maintaining the vibrancy of capitalism.

Why is it that so many labour leaders have this compulsive and inexplicable attachment to Keynesianism?

These used-to-be advocates of the working-class should remember that the post-war welfare state was a strategic bargain between organized labour, the state and the capitalist class in the West to weaken the appeal of socialism or radicalism to the working-class.

Another reason for the unholy alliance of these partners in crime was to support anti-communism at home and abroad as well as allegiance to imperialist policies in the Third World.
The state used its spending and taxation powers and control over the interest rate to manage aggregate demand in the economy. These policy tools facilitated the provision of social programmes as a means to make capitalist political economy legitimate.

However, by the mid-1970s, the capitalist class and the state were sufficiently confident that they had hegemony over the working-class and had contained the threat of socialism.
So they turned their backs on the welfare state deal with organized labour, and thus began the era of neoliberalism.

Looking back at the relentless attack of the elite on workers since the 1970s gives us an insight into the current proposed two-year wage-freeze attack on over 1 million public sector workers by the Ontario Liberals.

Many labour unions’ leaderships are hesitant to define the government’s proposed wage-freeze as part of the class struggle.

This political timidity was evident in CUPE Ontario’s presentation to Liberal government’s functionaries on August 30, 2010. It included colourful graphs and Keynesian arguments for investment in the public sector. CUPE Ontario offered Keynesian advice to a government that just recently borrowed from Keynes’ demand management playbook to prevent an economic collapse of the provincial economy.

It should have been clear to this labour organization that the Liberals didn’t need to be convinced that pumping money into the provincial economy during the Great Recession was a way to maintain an economic environment that was safe for business and maintain the legitimacy of the system in the eyes of the majority.

The preceding state of affairs strengthens our case that the quest to pick over $1.5 billion from the pockets of public sector workers is not about fighting the deficit.
It is about the class struggle and taking the fight to those “uppity” little workers who want a liveable wage.

Premier McGuinty and his group of neoliberal “bandits” must excuse us for not reading the scouting report, which specifies that only a dog-eat-dog economic nightmare befits today’s working-class.

Our bad, ‘Premier Dad’!

CUPE Ontario’s leadership was dismayed that in spite of taking advantage of the “unprecedented opportunity to share our ideas, in detail, with representatives of many government ministries…. discussions did not result in any substantive response from the government to our proposals about better ways to improve and protect public services.”

It may not have dawned on the brain trust of that labour organization that the Ontario Liberals were quite familiar with the required mix of government spending, taxation and interest rate and money supply manipulation to move the economy in the desired direction.

Evidence of how conventional CUPE Ontario’s alternative plan was may be gleaned from the manner in which its recommendation on the taxing certain levels of income dovetails with the anti-taxation message of the right.

In the presentation to the emergency meeting of its affiliated locals in August 2010, CUPE Ontario’s leadership pandered to the political right’s aversion to the taxation of income with the following statement: “High income earner taxes: new top bracket for $130K plus.”

Based on 2004 tax data, only 5 per cent of Canadians earned $89,000 and above so why is CUPE Ontario proposing such a high tax threshold? Could it be that labour leaders and some workers are now earning over $100,000 and are just interested in having others pay any tax increase?

It may not be clear to some labour organizations that a decent social wage through access to universal social programmes is very much dependent on taxation.
An anti-taxation mindset is not in the best interest of the working-class whose access to generous levels of unemployment benefits, public transportation, publicly-funded and operated childcare facilities, public education, a public pension plan and a whole host of public services is only possible when businesses and the general citizenry contribute to the tax base.

Our fight as workers and residents of Ontario against the wage-freeze, attacks on the special diet programme, rollback of spending on Metrolinx transportation programme and billions of dollars in tax cut to the business sector will not be won through Keynesian-inspired fancy power-point presentations to the Ontario Liberals.

It will be won through consistent economic and political education (from a working-class perspective) of public sectors workers and the broader working-class in this province.

It will be won through abandoning the bread-and-butter trade unionism that saw most of Ontario’s public sector unions obsessively focused on the proposed wage-freeze and not the array of policy proposals in the March 2010 budget that assaulted the economic interest of the working-class.

It will be won by working in principled alliances with social movement groups to mobilize and self-organize the working-class to challenge the government in the streets and all available political spaces.

Sucking up to the Ontario Liberals and trying to appear reasonable will not win the struggle for economic justice.

Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade union activist, member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and former vice-president of CUPE Ontario.

Rethinking the role of race in the modern Tea Party Movement

By admin, November 7, 2010 11:30 am

By Khalil Tian Shahyd

Tea Party’s Kool Aid drinkers at a rally

The rapid rise of the Tea Party Movement has fueled ongoing debate about the potential influence of the movement on American public policy and politics. The movement’s appeal and almost exclusive attraction to working class white voters has also caused many to question the role that race has played in its emergence and in sustaining it’s anger. However much of the discussion on the role of race in the TPM tends to get lost in two perspectives; 1.) to outright deny or downplay the influence of race in the movement’s political goals altogether; which is made possible by the charges of the second perspective that, 2.)  limits itself to a catalogue list of racist actions, political slogans and associations that can be charged against individuals, Tea Party leaders and organizations[i].

Missing from the discussion is a real analysis of the role that race has in framing our national political economic and historical narrative that can explain why public policies to limit the redistributive functions of government are the focus of conservative political groups in the form of “smaller government” advocacy. Indeed, the modern Tea Party can be said to have gotten its initial inspiration from CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s outburst on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange in which he blamed the federal government for giving subsidies to “subprime” mortgage holders who “were making bad economic decisions”[ii]. Santelli claimed that he would organize a Chicago Tea Party against President Obama’s plans to provide support to homeowners facing foreclosure. Of course, “subprime” became quickly coded by race and has been associated almost completely with homeowners of color whose experiences with foreclosure and mortgage debt had to be made somehow different and distinct from the experience of “mainstream” white American households who were morally superior and thus more deserving public sympathy.

The resulting global economic downturn has only prolonged the anxiety even as the crisis spread around the world. Yet, while the U.S. is generally recognized as the model for liberal capitalism, it is social democratic Europe; who have recently gone through their own political wave of right wing ascendency partly due to demographic shifts under increasing immigration from former colonies; where the most severe fiscal austerity packages are being proposed. Still, the U.S. pushes forward with stimulus packages to spur job growth and diplomatic attempts to convince European governments to increase their own consumptive spending. The responses of the working class majorities among the U.S. and Europe are equally divergent, as the European working classes have taken to mass action against austerity measures in countries such as Greece and now France.

In the U.S. the greatest momentum among the working class majority is toward the mid-term election of more conservative politicians, that include many who would not only raise the official retirement age of American workers [to levels three years higher than that being proposed in France and Greece for instance] and some who would actually privatize the social security system effectively eliminating the program completely. In this context it is quite easy to understand why progressives in the US might be envious as they look across the Atlantic for inspiration and a glimpse of what working class responses to the economic crisis could be[iii]. However, any notion that the mass movement of left and progressive forces against austerity in France can be replicated in the US fail to appreciate the glaring distinctions between the two countries, most importantly the impact of racial/ethnic division in fueling the hegemonic status of conservative/right ideological perspectives in US political discourse[iv].

Even as many Americans tend to underestimate the real level of inequality in the United States[v]; overall tolerance for inequality is much higher in the US than in Europe, and France in particular. In fact, although a recent study has shown that Americans might prefer to live in a more socially equal society[vi], deeper analysis has shown that when race/ethnicity is made an explicit factor, acceptance [particularly by white Americans] of inequality increases. Specifically as the image of poverty becomes framed as predominantly people of color, urban African-Americans and Latino’s in particular, support among whites for redistributive policies is reduced[vii]. In fact, as Alesina and Glaeser’s research has shown, approximately 50% of the difference in support for redistributive policies between the U.S. and social democratic European countries can be explained by racial/ethnic heterogeneity[viii].

Once that is accepted it becomes clear that the reason why the working class white majority in the US will not organize and demand progressive policies, [they are in fact demanding greater austerity upon themselves as manifested through the Tea Party platforms] is that their primary aim is not to secure social rights for the working class as a unified social class identity across racial/ethnic lines but to secure the privileged rights of white working class households apart and socially distinct from workers of color. This is the only way to truly explain why Congressional Democrats have fallen short in gaining the support of this group to Republicans by 10 points in both 2006 and 2008 and watched their deficit balloon to 29 points in the recent mid-terms[ix].

But to truly understand how this came about we must review the history, in particular the New Deal and the original Capital/Labor consensus that existed since WWII but began to collapse in the mid to late 1970’s. In the national trauma that followed the Great Depression and WWII, a new “Social Structure of Accumulation” was established that intended to stabilize the relationship and quell disputes between labor and capital through a capital-labor accord or consensus[x]. The consensus, which became embodied in the New Deal and the Wager Act of 1935 [that preceded the war] created a fragmented system of social protection that actually reinforced the racial/ethnic privileges demanded by the white working class to remain socially and spatially distinct from Blacks. It ensured, [for white workers] full employment in manufacturing industries, provided substantial benefits in terms of health and retirement and a middle class standard of living that didn’t require a great deal of formal education. By limiting labor/capital negotiations on social projection benefits and wages to the firm level rather than nationally or industry wide as in solidarity bargaining strategies institutionalized across Europe, white workers in the US were able to secure social rights within racially exclusive union brokered deals for themselves without having to share those gains with African-American [and Latino] workers excluded from union protection.

African-Americans under New Deal policies experienced new forms of social exclusion from New Deal social protections for the white working class. The racially fragmented social policies laid the structural foundations for the increase in racialized income and wealth disparities in two geographically based forms. In the north, the capital/labor consensus enabled unionized white workers to deny Black workers union membership, access to quality jobs that could support social mobility into the middle class and the many social protections won through disputes against capital[xi]. In the south the compromise over New Deal legislation enabled racist state governments to determine eligibility and levels of support through unemployment and social insurance programs that effectively eliminating Black workers from eligibility since they were largely confined to agricultural and domestic labor[xii]. While African-American workers were by default excluded from social protection programs that were tied to work, when they did receive benefits they typically got lower benefits due to their confinement to the lowest wage sectors of these industries. This left African-American workers disproportionately reliant on “means-tested” programs associated with poverty, which meant that conservatives could then racialize poverty and demonize these social welfare programs for political gain as resulting from deviance rather than the structural realities of race and the predominant political economy accumulation represented by the capital-labor consensus.

Again the primary compromise of the original capital-labor consensus which stabilized the relationship between the two was that white workers would be allowed to maintain their social distance [and superiority] over Black and other workers of color due to their exclusion from the better manufacturing jobs, under funded education and exclusion from protection and advocacy by mainstream labor unions.

The Civil Rights Movement would disrupt that arrangement. Despite the fact that the national Civil Rights leadership was literally forced to abandon economic justice frames in their advocacy, or risk being blacklisted as Communist, the movement’s success had far ranging redistributive political economic implications. For instance, the Civil Rights Act barring discrimination by race in areas of employment, education and housing brought Black workers into direct competition with white unionized workers in manufacturing sectors, forced white school districts to teach Black children along side white children and allowed the emerging Black middle class to abandon socially integrated Black communities for middle class suburban neighborhoods that elevated their asset values while giving them access to wider job possibilities and social networking opportunities.

The success of the Civil Rights Movement was made possible in no small part due to the rising national productivity and high economic growth rates enjoyed throughout the post-war period supported by an expansionary Keynesian macroeconomic policy. Liberal reformers believed that continued high growth rates in the national economy would allow them to extend employment opportunities to African-American workers without asking white workers in segregated labor markets to sacrifice their perceived entitlement to exclusive social rights[xiii]. During this period, the country’s macro-economic priority was to maintain full employment [as supported by the Full Employment Act of 1946] to ensure that aggregate demand continued to grow in order to support a growing economy. According to liberal economic theory of racial reform, “blacks, who suffer more in periods of high unemployment and recession, can be most effectively helped into the economic mainstream by increasing the aggregate labor demand through a policy that boost the overall demand for goods and services in the economy”[xiv]. An expansionary government that increases public spending on public works projects, and entices businesses and consumers to spend more by reducing the cost of credit [or buying out their troubled asset portfolios] can raise the level of aggregate demand in the economy which will lead to growth and increased employment. So long as the national economy continued to grow at good pace, workers of color could be integrated into the labor force without competing directly with white workers for scarce jobs. However, in order for these policies to work, the populace must be willing to cope with the potential outcome of rising inflation due to increased deficit spending[xv]. Further, if growth slows, resulting in an increase in long term unemployment amongst white workers, this would amount to the remaining employed white workers being asked to tax themselves in order to offer inclusion and opportunity for Black workers who then compete against them for jobs. As this scenario began to unfold, it would eventually destabilize the tense peace of the post-civil rights reform era.

Empowered by the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, African-American demands for social rights to accessing public services, education and in redress of past labor discrimination meant not only a direct loss of jobs for white workers but a reduction in their socially privileged status vis-à-vis Black workers. Coupled with the inflationary pressures that followed the OPEC oil shocks of the early 70’s, white workers began to entertain political ideas that questioned the relevance of the old capital-labor consensus.

Since white workers were no longer able to rely on the power of the state to enforce their segregated social privilege and spatial distance from Black workers they eventually bought into free market ideologies that promoted “merit based” allocation of economic opportunity through liberated free market preference. They could safely express their “racial preferences” for social and spatial separation from African-Americans by supporting the establishment and indeed the exalting of private markets in areas such as housing, public education and health care. In short, they would be assured through the expansion of free market ideology only limited competition for jobs since the neoliberalization of national and local governance would deny Blacks access to quality education, poor health care and few transportation options necessary for jobs that increasingly abandoned down town urban districts for majority white suburban labor markets. There would however, be one last vestige of the Civil Rights era that would remain as a persistent thorn. Affirmative Action was instituted as national policy in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement to redress years of employment and educational discrimination by qualified Black job applicants and workers who were passed over for admissions, jobs and promotions. However, during the white backlash that began in the mid-late 70’s and culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, affirmative action began to reframed as a policy of reverse discrimination and the unfair awarding of positions to “un”qualified Black applicants.

A collective myth began to emerge among working class whites that “real Americans” and true citizens didn’t rely on public services or government interference in their favor in order to secure their livelihoods. The ability of an individual or household to achieve a good quality of life through private rather than public or collective means became a symbol of true citizenship and a moral litmus test on who deserved to be serviced by the institutions of the nation. Of course this myth neglects the long history of collective organizing by labor unions and economic justice organizations to secure the labor standards that made the original capital-labor consensus possible. As important, the collective myth of individualism was effective in abstracting from public knowledge the role that government played in supporting the social development of society and in the maintenance of vital public infrastructure and services. This is how we eventually get to Tea Party activist shouting slogans such as the now iconic; “keep the government out of my medicare”. The result of all this however was the hegemonic rise of neoliberal free market social theory which began to be grafted and adopted onto any and every social issue that confronted society. The dominance of neoliberal ideology laid the ground for a rolling back of the ability and will; [by electing right wing ideologues who had no intention of enforcing the Civil Rights Act and were hostile to redistributive economics and targeted labor policies] of government to intervene on the behalf of Black and other workers of color.

The roll back of the state through deregulation also removed any protection the white working class had from the disruptions and volatility of the “free” market by weakening their own bargaining power against capital. Further, the shift from full employment policies meant there was higher unemployment and a larger reserve army of labor which [along with the retreat of unions] further weakened the bargaining power of labor and enabled capital to completely abandon the capital-labor accord that sustained the New Deal state. The result has been a higher share of national income going to profit rather than to worker’s wages.

The before tax profit rate to capital on national income reached 11.6% by 2005 the highest level since 1966. On the labor side, the share of national income going to workers fell to 56.9% of national income, its lowest levels since 1966[xvi]. Intensified global competition justified a shift from national policies that sought to redistribute economic development socially between groups and spatially between regions, forcing both to take on more entrepreneurial positions in order to attain meaningful employment under conditions of “labor flexibility” and to attract the necessary investment to sustain growth in urban markets[xvii]. Stagnating and declining real wages allowed profits to reach record highs but also meant that capital had to look abroad to emerging markets for a consumer base that could absorb it’s productive output which began to bias toward high end services in the financial and knowledge sectors rather than production of real commodities.

The fragmenting of the national economy into low wage/low skilled service sectors and high wage/high skilled technology and knowledge sectors meant that the white working class has lost its primary means of social mobility into the middle class. The traditional path through stable, socially segregated manufacturing labor has been largely outsourced or automated. Meanwhile, as inequality rose to its highest levels since the Great Depression, households had to take on more debt in order to finance their middle class consumer based lifestyles. By 2007, household debt as a percentage of disposable income rose to 128.8% from 59% in 1982[xviii].  When this became unsustainable, the asset bubbles began to burst in 2001. It was only a matter of time before the white working class would erupt and demand action on its behalf.

The modern “Tea Party” is a direct result of this history as the white working class aims to reestablish some measure of segregated social privilege and protection in a volatile free market. Without those protections the white working class cannot sustain or reproduce a white social identity as the mainstream middle class that is privileged and distinct from workers of color. And let’s be clear whites cling to racial identity not out of reverence to heritage or culture but due to the social status and privilege it confers. The deification of the “founding fathers” and the religious zealotry surrounding their interpretation of the National Constitution has more to do with their ability to claim sole ownership over the national narrative and a sincere understanding or acceptance of the document’s intended logic. All this coalesces to make the movement quite schizophrenic as they claim to want and need government action yet they despise the fact that an institution which used to be their sole possession increasingly must consider the needs of a broader group, [i.e. “we want to take our country back!”].

However, as this article argues what the Tea Party is rallying against is not “big government” per se, but the type of “universalist” government that would be advocated by the left to address, through policy the social inclusion of marginalized groups into the mainstream. So a “public option” that would “reduce” the real concerns white working class Americans have with the current state of healthcare to the concerns shared by people of color is unacceptable as it denies their right to an exalted social status and potentially will force them to share waiting room space in hospitals and doctor’s clinics with those they deem socially undesirable.

For that reason, the white working class will likely never be emotionally able to make the obvious connection between their interest and the interest of progressive political activist and communities of color. At least for some generations yet, this will be the case. So in their self-induced paranoid delusion they must shift further and further to the right in hopes that they can somehow retool the state to act in their favor while excluding “the other” from access those same social rights and privileges.

The fundamental dispute between right leaning conservatives and left leaning progressives is over this issue of inclusion. For the right, the national narrative is a country founded and established by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and that entitles them to higher social privileges but also it entitles them to inform or demand of the rest of us of the pace, place and space of our integration into the country’s mainstream if at all. The progressive coalition is an amalgamation of liberal whites and excluded or marginalized social groups who for better are worse are attempting to come together and discuss openly the nature of their inclusion, and to rethink the narrative of the country as a diverse nation and sometimes to demand it. The willingness of the left progressive coalition to have this discussion is its strength and a weakness as it provides little comfort for those who are more attracted to the dictated outcomes that an autocratic leadership can provide. It should be no surprise then that the Tea Party Movement attracts a fairly large share of fundamentalist Christians as well.

This should help us understand how structural racism influences public policy, and in the case of the Tea Party, lead to the rise of a reactionary social movement that on the face of it continues to befuddle liberal political pundits as it appears to consistently advocate for economic positions contrary to its own interest. It’s only when we understand the white working class majority and the Tea Party by extension, are voting not against their economic interest but against a universalization of social rights that would extend to all ethnic groups. Only then can we can gain real appreciation of the task that lay before progressive advocates. It also sheds some light on the consistent charges of the white working class to the elitism of liberal white America who assumes that these groups are somehow ignorant of their true interest or are being led astray. They are much clearer in their goals than we would like to give them credit for.

Yet we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of a “race vs class” discussion that is so familiar to progressives. For at the same time, the point isn’t to call out the movement or any individuals within it as racist or bigots even as they may be. The goal is to understand how structural and institutional racism operate in a liberal free market context and more broadly how race and the politics of white racial identity act to limit the ability of progressive forces to establish a more redistributive system of governance. In short, how race acts as justification for white working class support for neoliberal policies of governance. How the persistence of racial inequality can be made consistent with rising aggregate prosperity.

For the last three or four decades, white leftist in the U.S. have been frustrated at their inability to recruit support from among the white working and middle classes. Throughout this time they have refused time and again to confront the way race is utilized consistently as a wedge in American politics to blunt the potential of progressive coalitions. Refusal to acknowledge and understand the race wedge leaves the white left ineffective as organizers of the white working leaving this group open to right wing conservative ideologies that are more comfortable utilize race as a political weapon to consistently repopulate their base of support. More importantly, inability to confront race as a means of broadening its support has not only meant the left are ineffective, but has allowed conservative and liberal ideologues to altogether eliminate a critical left perspective from the public discourse in America. In the U.S. the “left” is occupied by liberals in what is actually the political center. A quick sweep of American political talk shows that typically feature someone from the right in public debate against a liberal centrist [who is labeled as representing the left] as if a true left opinion did not exist or had no thoughts that the country should feel need to consider or respect. The delegitimizing of the left discourse in American politics as “extreme” can be contrasted with the inclusion of right wing conservative discourse that allows extremist rhetoric like that espoused in Tea Party gatherings to be treated as legitimate discourse. A great example of this is in the national debate on reforming social security as an austerity measure to cut national deficits. The right and center debate the issue within their major frames; right wing focus on individual responsibility leading to calls for privatization and centrist commitments to managerial reforms that can make the program solvent for at least another century at best. Completely absent from the debate [the left or critical class analysis] is the role that rising inequality has in leaving the program short of funding. U.S Social Security is funded by a tax on all income below $90thousand. The greater proportion of American income are held by people who make more than $90thousand cap means that larger share of national income is not being taxed to contribute to the system. Learning to confront the race wedge is critical to any strategy to develop a broader progressive coalition that can open public discourse to a critical class perspective.



[iii] Why France Matters Here Too;

[iv] See: The Right Nation – Conservative Power in America by: John Micklethwait  and Adrian Wooldridge


[vi] Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time by:  Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely

[vii] Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference by: Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser

[viii] Ibid


[x] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

[xi] Race, Money and the American Welfare State; by: Michael K. Brown

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America; by: Marcellus Andrews

[xiv] American Dilemma; by: Gunnar Myrdal

[xv] The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America; by: Marcellus Andrews

[xvi] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

[xvii] See: The Neoliberal City: Governance, Ideology and Development in American Urbanism by- Jason Hackworth

[xviii] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

Government-Union Wage-Freeze Talks are a Trap

By admin, October 30, 2010 12:54 pm

CUPE Quarterly (Local 3906), Volume I, Issue 2…

By Ajamu Nangwaya
Chair – External, CUPE 3907

As a trade union member who works in the broader public
sector and would be affected by the proposed wage-freeze,
I have been strongly opposed to labour unions meeting
with the McGuinty Liberals. The only logical purpose behind
these government-initiated meetings is to strike deals with labour bureaucrats at the table in exchange for agreeing to wage-cuts for unionized members.

There is a collective bargaining process through which the working class attempts to extract wages and benefits for the contribution that it makes to the creation of wealth in this society. Why would labour leaders even agree to negotiate with the McGuinty Liberals when the strategic objective of the state is the delivery to the bosses
of the worker’s material interests on the proverbial silver platter?

Were these labour leaders spooked by the implication the Supreme Court’s BC Health Services decision which rejected British Columbia’s unilateral removal of clauses in the collective agreement of public sector workers, and stipulated that governments should negotiate in good faith with the elected representatives of the workers? Is it possible that some of these leaders are still rattled
by public reaction to the recent strikes in the cities of Windsor and Toronto and at York University?

The working-class and labour bureaucrats cannot face the employer with fear in their eyes and minds. As workers, we need to take a broad look at the general attack by the government and private sector actors on all of us who sell our labour, have no real control over the organizing of worklife and little say in the distribution of the fruit of, or profit from, collective labour.

Therefore, we should take the $4.6 billion tax-cut, the attack on the special diet allowance and the postponement of the $4 billion Metrolinx investment in transportation infrastructure as assaults on the working-class of this province. If the labour movement had mobilized its material resources and members when these attacks were advanced in the March 2010 budget, it would have greater credibility with the public that its refusal to take a wage-freeze is
about all workers earning a livable wage.

Organized labour must educate, mobilize and organize its members through a power and democracy from below strategy so as to effectively resist the McGuinty Liberals’ attempt to shaft the workers of this province.


The Privileging of Whiteness in Today’s Union

By admin, October 26, 2010 11:08 am

Current Members of the National Executive Board

The National Executive Board makes decisions on behalf of CUPE members in between conventions. Its members are elected by CUPE members at CUPE’s biennial national conventions. This section contains summaries of the board’s meetings, and decisions taken.

Paul Moist, National President

Paul Moist, CUPE National President

Jun 22, 2009 03:32 PM Paul Moist was elected national president on October 29, 2003, at CUPE’s bi-annual national convention in Quebec City.

Claude Généreux, National Secretary-Treasurer

Claude Généreux, CUPE’s National Secretary-Treasurer

Oct 20, 2009 07:36 PM Claude Généreux first was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the fall of 2001.

Daniel Légère

Daniel Légère, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 29, 2005 11:49 AM

General Vice-President
Daniel Légère has been a union activist ever since he was first hired as a correctional officer in St. Hilaire, N.B. in 1980. While still on probation, he became a shop steward and fought an unjustified reprimand. His involvement has taken many forms in CUPE and in the community ever since.

Lucie Levasseur

Lucie Levasseur, Regional Vice-President, Quebec

Nov 2, 2007 11:37 AM

General Vice-President
Lucie Levasseur comes to CUPE’s National Executive Board from Québec’s post-secondary education sector.

Fred Hahn


Dec 14, 2009 03:59 PM

General Vice-President, Ontario

Fred Hahn has been an active member of CUPE since 1991. A social worker raised in rural Ontario, Fred chose to use his degree from the University of Toronto advocating for children with intellectual disabilities with Community Living Toronto.

Tom Graham

Tom Graham, Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Oct 1, 2008 12:54 PM

General Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Tom Graham first became involved in CUPE in 1979, when he was hired by the City of Saskatoon Sign and Paint shop. He was elected president of CUPE Saskatchewan in 1998.

Barry O’Neill

Barry O’Neill, General Vice-PresidentJan 16, 2004 10:46 AM

General Vice-President
Barry was elected to the national executive board in 1998, first as a regional vice president.

Wayne Lucas

Wayne Lucas, Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aug 24, 2009 03:24 PM

Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Lucas has been a CUPE member for over 30 years, having started his career as a school board worker in 1978. He has served as the president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 19 years.

Danny Cavanagh

Danny Cavanagh, Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia

Apr 29, 2005 03:22 PM

Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia
Danny Cavanagh was first elected as president of CUPE Nova Scotia on April 27th, 2005 at the annual convention in Sydney. He is also president of his local, CUPE 734 the outside workers for the Town of Truro.

Sandy Harding

Sandy Harding, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 10, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Milo Murray

Milo Murray, Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Nov 2, 2007 11:30 AM

Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Charles Fleury

Charles Fleury, Regional Vice-President, Québec

Nov 3, 2003 11:36 AM

Regional Vice-President, Québec

Charles Fleury is the Secretary-General of CUPE Local 1500, Employees of Hydro-Quebec, and has been regional vice-president since 2005. A Hydro-Quebec employee since 1982, he worked at James Bay until 1991, and is now a transmission installer in the Laurentians.

Nathalie Stringer

Nathalie Stringer, Regional Vice-President for Quebec

May 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Regional Vice-President for Quebec
Nathalie Stringer is president of CUPE’s Air Transat component, with bases in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Michael Hurley

Michael Hurley, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Dec 18, 2001 11:40 AM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Candace Rennick

Candace Rennick, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Jan 16, 2004 02:19 PM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario
Candace Rennick, a health care worker, is in her third term on the National Executive Board. She was first elected as regional vice-president (RVP) at 23, filling a vacancy for Ontario on the NEB.

Henri Giroux

Nov 20, 2009 02:12 PM

Regional Vice-President, Northern Ontario
Henri Giroux has been president of his local, an Cassellholme Home in North Bay, for 26 years. He has been president of the North Bay CUPE council for the past 10 years, and president of the North Bay and District Labour Council for the past 3 years.

Mike Davidson

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:14 PM

Regional Vice-President, Manitoba
Mike Davidson has been a CUPE member for 30 years, starting out as a park worker at the city of Winnipeg in 1979. He is vice-president for CUPE Manitoba, and president of CUPE Local 500, representing 5000 workers at the City of Winnipeg.

Judy Henley

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:16 PM

Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan
Sister Judy Henley has been a CUPE member since 1982. She is a Health Care worker; through the years working in health care she held different positions. She is the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 4980 and is currently in her eighth year as Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Dennis Mol

Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Jun 11, 2009 08:28 AM

Regional Vice-President, Alberta
Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, Regional Vice-President, British Columbia

Aug 11, 2005 12:31 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Mark Hancock was appointed August 2, 2005 to replace Colleen Jordan as the Regional Vice President for BC after Colleen Jordan stepped down.

Ken Robinson

BC Regional Vice-President Ken Robinson

Dec 17, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Ken Robinson is a diet technician at Kelowna General Hospital and has been an HEU member for 20 years. He has held a number of positions on the union’s provincial executive in the past decade, most recently as first vice-president, and is the chairperson of the Kelowna Amalgamated local.

Affirmative Action Seats on the NEB

Yolanda McClean

Yolanda McClean, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Racialized Members)

Brian Barron

Brian Barron, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:48 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Aboriginal Members)

Brian Barron is Status First Nations CUPE member. He has been a City of Winnipeg employee for 29 years, working in the Public Works Department in field operations and as a foreman.

CUPE’s National Committees and

Working Groups

National Advisory Committee on Pensions


National Health Care Issues Committee

Health Care 1843

National Global Justice Committee

Global Justice1858

Persons with Disabilities National Working Group


National Young Workers Committee

Young Workers1890

National Child Care Working Group


National Environment Committee


National Health and Safety Committee

Health and safety1951

National Literacy Working Group

Literacy 1956

National Pink Triangle Committee

Pink Triangle1913

National Contracting Out and Privatization Co-ordinating Committee


National Women’s Committee


National Rainbow Committee


National Rainbow Committee


National Aboriginal Council


National Trustees

CUPE national trustees at work on May 12, 2010 in Ottawa. Left to right: Mark Goodwin (ON), Ronald Dagenais (QC), Colin Pawson (BC).

2009 – 2011 Appointments


Total # of Applicants = 476

Total # of members Appointed = 186 Total # of Re-appointments = 108 Total # of new Appointments = 78















Aboriginal Worker





Worker of Colour





Worker with Disability





Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual Worker





Youth Worker





National Political Action Committee

Political Action1925

Labour needs change in perspective

By admin, October 17, 2010 7:55 pm
Published On Sun Oct 17 2010

Re: Unions, the left failed during this recession, Oct. 9

As a trade union member and a researcher on the Canadian labour movement, I couldn’t agree more with Thomas Walkom’s analysis.

The monumental failure of the labour movement in making ideological, material or political gains has much to do with the fact that the leadership of organized labour has thoroughly bought the bill of goods that capitalism is the only option for the working-class in Canada.

The only difference of opinion that that the labour bureaucrats have with the captains of industry and commerce is whether the Hobbesian or Anglo-American version of capitalism, where life is “nasty, brutish and short” or the benign one found in Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark is the preferred way of exploiting labour. Rank-and-file trade union members are not in favour of choosing between the lesser of two evils.

Further, one of the ideological shackles on the minds of labour leaders is the fact that they have bought into the idea that Canada is a largely middle-class society. Yet, they are in the contradictory position of representing the working-class. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of hearing the top labour leaders and social democratic politicians arguing about their objective mission being that of protecting the declining middle-class.

Why should union members express working-class solidarity with each other when they are being told that the desired social destination is the middle-class? This state of affairs is no more evident than in the labour education courses that are carried out in most unions.

These courses do not build workers’ understanding of capitalism as an economic system that is incompatible with their quest to exercise control over work and the product of their labour.

We have class interests that are distinct from the economic and political elites and our ultimate aim should be to control the wealth of this country in order to create the New Jerusalem.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Toronto

Link to Walkom’s column:


By admin, October 14, 2010 10:14 am
What: Rally against the Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS) “G20 De-Briefing”
Why: To demand accountability and justice for all those arrested during the G20, and to keep ‘Cops off Campus!’
Where: Rally begins at Graduate Students’ Union, 16 Bancroft Avenue, and will end at the University of Toronto Faculty Club, 45 Willcocks Street.
When: 10:30am, Wednesday, October 20th

This is a call to friends and allies to rally on the University of Toronto campus at 10:30am on Wednesday, October 20th, to  send a clear message to the Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS) that their “G20 De-Briefing” is not welcome on our campus. Students, faculty, staff and community members are calling for accountability and justice for all those arrested during the G20 Summit in Toronto – the largest instance of mass arbitrary detention in Canadian history – and are demanding that TAPPS and private security firms be kept off campus!

What is TAPPS? Why should I protest it?
TAPPS is an organization created in the mid-1990s to provide greater coordination between the Toronto police and private security companies. The influence of private security companies has increased drastically in recent years, from their expanding role in major conflicts (think of Blackwater in Afghanistan and Iraq) to their steady encroachment on public spaces. Some of the private security companies active in war-zones, such as G4S and Securitas, are also active on our streets and campuses.

With the increasing trend towards privatizing and contracting-out public services, the realm of policing has come to depend on ‘public private partnerships’ or the full-out privatization of policing services – fueling a multi-billion dollar ’security industry’ that relies on fear to sustain profits. The outcome is simple and dangerous: the public has minimal or no oversight and control over the activities of organizations that allegedly protect us.

During the G20 Summit, TAPPS revealed the dangers posed when policing forces and private security companies collaborate: massive and unaccountable repression of civil rights. According to ‘Security Management’ magazine: “Four months before the G20, TAPPS helped bring organizations—including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police, NYPD Shield and other specialized units—together to develop plans and share intelligence on known terrorist and extremist threats, including the Black and Pink Bloc anarchists. The information gathered was then fed into the TAPPS secure portal ( to build an intelligence database that police and private security could draw from during the summit weekend. TAPPS members could discuss the intelligence on message boards within the secure Web site…Security and police professionals now hope to build on the lessons learned [from the G20] and realize an even greater collaboration between police and security in the future.”

What is happening on campus on Oct 20 and why should I care?
On Wednesday, October 20th, TAPPS is holding a ‘G20 Debriefing’ training seminar on the UofT campus. This session is co-hosted by the University of Toronto Campus Community Police Service and Reilly Security (one of the companies that holds a security contract with the UofT administration). In this closed session, speakers will assess police and private security cooperation during “Canada’s largest domestic security operation” and examine “challenges and provide perspective from many of the key players involved from both police and private security circles.”
In short, similar rounds of repression are being planned on our campus, behind closed doors.

The UofT community is already familiar with the consequences of ‘police and private security’ cooperation. During the G20 Summit, 75 people from Quebec, who were staying as guests at the GSU Gym, were arrested as a result of a tip provided by a Reilly Security guard working on campus. The security guard noted the presence of ‘black-clad individuals’ getting off a bus and immediately contacted the UofT ‘Incident Command Center’ and TAPPS to secure their arrest. The 75 people arrested have since been cleared of all charges, underscoring the arbitrary nature of these arrests. These arrests are part of a broader trend at UofT in which campus activists and their community allies have experienced increased harassment at the hands of private security guards and campus police.

What kind of campus are we asking for?

We are calling on the University of Toronto Administration and the provincial government to honour the University’s Purpose to commit to “vigilant protection of individual human rights,” including the “human right to radical, critical teaching and research.” We call on university administrators to respect the campus as a protected space to “raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself.” We reject and will actively oppose all administrative sanction of an oppressive security agenda that undermines these commitments.

Membership organization must run Caribana

By admin, September 10, 2010 5:26 pm
Ajamu Nangwaya
There are many people who view Caribana as a purely cultural and psychic experience. Unfortunately, they miss an equally important component of this festival. It is an annual economic boost to Canada’s economy to the tune of $438 million. Increasingly, carnivals and the cultural industries of which they are a part are being seen as potential economic drivers for sustainable development.

Dr. Keith Nurse of the University of the West Indies in a paper The Cultural Industries and Sustainable Development in Small Developing States asserts that “the cultural industries play a dual role (in development) in that it is an economic sector with growth potential and an arena for identity formation”.

Caribana has the potential to play such a function in the community. But my focus here is on the economic possibilities.

Caribana is by far the most successful, collectively-owned asset that has been created by the African Caribbean community in Canada. This festival has its roots in the political resistance and cultural creativity of the African working-class or labouring classes in the Caribbean. However, there is one persistent feature that has remained with Caribana and its sister carnivals in Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, New York, Barbados and elsewhere. This problematic issue is that the African working-class does not reap the bulk of the economic returns from its cultural productions.

The members of this class do not own the hotels, the major retail establishments, car and truck rental companies, eateries, clubs, airlines and other modes of transportation, and do not set the priority on how the taxes generated from the festivals should be spent. The estimated US$30 million from Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival-related visitor arrivals, the ₤93 million revenue of the Notting Hill carnival in London and the over US$200 million from the West Indian Day Parade in New York do not significantly contribute to the material welfare of the race-cum-class grouping that makes this income possible.

In what ways could the community use Caribana to contribute to its economic, social and cultural development? I will briefly outline five ideas that I believe may contribute to a community-controlled festival that will collectively reward its creators for their cultural, physical and intellectual creativity, innovation and effort.

Firstly, any organization that organizes the two-week festival that is Caribana must be a democratically-controlled, membership-based one. This carnival is a collective resource and for most of its history it was organized and managed by the people. Currently, Caribana is managed by the Festival Management Committee (FMC) that was born out of the financial coercion levied against the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) in 2006 by the City of Toronto. Funding was withdrawn from the CCC as the traditional organizer of Caribana and given to the FMC (which was established by the City for that purpose).

Even the most informed Caribana fan in Toronto would find it difficult to tell you how many members are on the board of directors of the FMC and give you their names. This information is like a classified state secret of Canada’s secret police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Caribana is a people’s festival and its affairs should be democratically-determined by the people. This summer festival should not be controlled by a “private club” or a “secret society” of faceless notables backed by private corporations and the different levels of government.

Secondly, we need to transform Caribana into a year-round operation with activities, initiatives, programs and attractions that will generate revenue and bring people from outside and inside the city to its sponsored events. The Calgary Stampede is a 365-day affair, although the actual festival is a 10-day event that generates $173 million in economic impact. This western-themed enterprise employs 1,200 permanent employees to carry out its day-to-day activities and an additional 3,500 workers for the festival. Its total estimated annual economic impact is $353 million.

Caribana is a two-week festival with an economic impact of $438 million in 2009. Can you imagine what its economic contribution would be if the infrastructure and resources were in place to make it a year-round affair? It would provide direct employment opportunities to members of the community as well as indirect employment through activities or tourism products related to conferences on cultural productions and resistance, educational workshops, theatrical productions, mounting of annual exhibitions and national and international tours of said products and schools of art on costume designing and production, just to name a few.

One thing that should be made clear is that the different levels of government must fund Caribana in the same way that they do with White-controlled cultural institutions. In April 2009, the government of Ontario gave a grant funding of $43.4 million to the following six White-directed organizations: the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Ontario Science Centre, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Royal Botanical Gardens. The provincial government allotted $24.8 million of that money as permanent annual funding, which increased the total operational grant to the six favoured cultural organizations from $56 million to $80.8 million. The federal government gave $3 million each to the Toronto International Film Festival and the Strafford Festival in April 2009 from its Marquee Tourism Events Program. Yet Caribana received a mere $415,000 from the same fund in that year.

As a year-round operation, Caribana would likely leave its privileged cultural siblings gasping for breath in the cultural industries’ economic impact “Olympics.” It is already the biggest grossing festival in the country.

It should be clear that Canada provides life-line or strategic funding to cultural organizations. Therefore, the community and its allies should politically organize their forces to challenge the state’s current practice of using cultural racism to determine the allocation of funding to arts groups.

To be continued.

Ajamu Nangwaya is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and a labour activist.

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